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1879: First Incandescent Light Bulb

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Innovation: Incandescent light bulb
Location: Menlo Park, New Jersey
Year: 1879
By: Thomas A. Edison

Although Thomas Edison is credited to have invented the lightbulb, it is important to note that he simply improved electric lighting. Edison was successful in producing a reliable lighting object because his light bulbs used carbonized bamboo filaments, which were much cheaper than platinum filaments, and could be used for over 1,200 hours (versus 13.5 hours for previous lightbulbs). Also, he received financial support from J. P. Morgan to conduct many trial-and-error experiments before publicly presenting his final product. Light bulbs function with electricity by heating the filaments until the filaments emit light. What set Edison’s relatively cheap and reliable incandescent light bulb apart from previously invented light bulbs were that his light bulbs could run in parallel circuits, were made of insulating substances, and contained on-off switches.

Prior to the invention of the light bulb, people relied on gas lamps, candles, and oil lanterns to work in the dark. The production of the incandescent light bulb resulted in higher productivity; people could continue working even after sunset. For the building industry, this meant continuing construction at night to meet deadlines, lighting of buildings for aesthetic purposes, and illuminating public and private spaces. This invention resulted in the creation of power plants to provide electricity. `

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Written by Priscilla Nguyen

October 8, 1879 at 1:06 am

Posted in Electricity

1877: First Phonograph

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Innovation: Phonograph
Year: 1877
Location: United States of America
By: Thomas A. Edison

Thomas Edison, after attempting to improve the telegraph, invented the phonograph in 1877. Edison was interested in creating a device that would store telegraphic messages via imprints on paper to be reused telegraphically time after time. The phonograph, also known as a gramophone, is a machine that records and plays back recorded sounds through the use of two diaphragms and two styluses. When a person talks into the mouthpiece, the sounds are indented by a stylus on a metal tin-foiled cylinder as vertical wave patterns. The first words to ever be recorded and played back by a phonograph were: “Mary had a little lamb”, a well known nursery rhyme.

The invention of the phonograph received much public attention; many American newspapers and magazines featured the phonograph, increasing its popularity. Edison hoped that the phonograph would be used for the following purposes among others: teach elocution, reproduce music, time-announcing clocks, preserve languages and their pronunciation, and clarify lessons. The phonograph was important because it allowed messages to be recorded and be replayed as many times possible afterwards, at the discretion of the users. Additionally, it led to the development of improved sound-reproducing machines, making the recording and distribution of music possible.

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Written by Priscilla Nguyen

October 8, 1877 at 12:56 am

Posted in Communication

1872: Underwater Telegraph Extension to Australia

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Innovation: Underwater Telegraph Extension to Australia
Location: Port Darwin, Australia
Year: 1872
By: Charles Todd

The Australian Overland Telegraph Line, the communication wire that would connect Australia to the rest of the globe, was completed in 1872 after a seven-month delay. The project is one of Australia’s most important engineering feats in that news could be exchanged with London in a matter of hours instead of months. Charles Todd was appointed head of the project by the South Australian government to construct the line. Todd divided the project into three sections: Northern, Southern, and Central regions; each region would employ its own team of surveyors, construction workers, and iron workers. The project proved to be challenging because supplies and provisions were expensive to transport across the Australian wilderness. Also, the iron poles, insulators, wires, and batteries had to be shipped from England.

On June 8, 1872 the line connecting Java, Singapore to Port Darwin, Australia was completed at Frews Ironstone Ponds. The line required 3200 kilometers (1988 miles) of wire, 30,000 poles placed eighty meters apart, and repeater stations 250 kilometers apart. The line also helped connect Australian cities such as Adelaide to Port Darwin. The project led to the development of many towns and the economic boom of cities like Adelaide, an important communications center.

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Written by Priscilla Nguyen

October 8, 1872 at 12:44 am

Posted in Communication

1871: The Great Chicago Fire – Fire Codes

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Innovation: The Great Chicago Fire – Fire Codes
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Year: 1871

The Great Chicago Fire took place October 8-10,1871. The fire started at Mrs. Catherine O’Leary’s farm and spread to the city’s center because of the strong southwestern winds that blew embers long distances. The fire destroyed more than three square miles of the city, killed over three hundred people, and left 100,000 homeless. A summer drought and the wooden construction of the densely built buildings helped the fire grow out of control. Most of the northern side of Chicago was ruined along with the city’s roads, sidewalks, and lampposts.

The Great Rebuilding occurred soon after the fire. Since most railroad tracks had remained undamaged, aid reached the city from various parts of the United States. Unfortunately, the fire resulted in $200 million of damaged property, half of which was insured. The fire initiated many changes: strengthening of safety rules and the city’s fire department and laws that required new buildings to be made out of fireproof materials. Such materials include brick, stone, marble, terracotta, and limestone. The Palmer House hotel proclaimed itself to be the first fireproof building and Chicago became one of the country’s “most fireproof cities”. `

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Written by Priscilla Nguyen

October 7, 1871 at 11:56 pm

Posted in Fire Protection